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Go Insane

Lyrics Tabs

Written by Lindsey Buckingham.

Contributors to this interpretation included: Erik M. Grebner, Lauren, Lesley, KC, Spirit Dancer, SlvrSprgs, and Casi. Special thanks goes to Ava who, despite her interminable illness, still was able to provide a transcript of Lindsey’s 1984 interview!

"In a sense, I think we all go a little mad from time to time . . ."

Many a person shall agree that Lindsey Buckingham has every reason to go a little mad. After bouts of mononucleosis, epilepsy, back problems, creative hindrance, critical and commercial tribulations, creative hindrance AGAIN, and the infamous breakup with Stevie Nicks, it’s a surprise the man didn’t reach out a kill someone. Yet, "Go Insane" came after his first leave from Fleetwood Mac, when one would expect him to be isolated from his insane conditions. Still, this powerful song emerges from his unusual yet creative album of the same name.

When asked in an interview with Mary Turner if the term "Go Insane" was literal or metaphorical, Lindsey gives an almost cryptic response.

"Insanity can said to be very relative to the context you find yourself in. An example might be a very acceptable and typical behavior for a group of people in a little rock and roll microcosm, might be grounds for someone being committed if they worked in a bank.

"Looking at it that way we all tend to go insane a little bit, I think that's ok. I think that's one of the things the album is saying - it is ok to go insane, it can be quite cathartic actually, to watch yourself go out to the edge and sort of reel yourself back in - now hopefully you do reel yourself back in.

"Another point the album makes is if you happen to be with someone else who takes that sort of behavior too far, and your not willing to give up whatever that relationship might be - then you will tend to go a little bit insane with them.

"And if they are doing that you will experience a lot of the things they are simply by virtue of being a part of that. The important thing is not to take it too far, I guess."

These comments imply an almost dual meaning behind the song—one involving his relationships and another involving his career. The varied responses from the Ledge can easily separate into both of those categories. The lyrics, from one objective listener’s standpoint, are rather simple on the surface. This could be for the fact that Lindsey (usually) writes his songs before adding lyrics. I’d like to think that "Go Insane" was was an exception to this rule, since the haunting music (disguised in the original music with a dance beat) and the lyrics complement each other so well.

"Two kinds of people in this world . . . winners, losers . . ."

Lindsey’s relationship with Carol Ann Harris was deteriorating and, more than likely, ended before or during the taping of the Go Insane album. Carol, in fact, had been kicked out by Lindsey after excessive drug use, a decision which had to have been tough for Lindsey; their relationship had lasted seven years.

Looking upon the above line, he could be comparing himself to Carol. Perhaps Carol has made Lindsey focus on the "black-and-white" view of life—Carol is a loser, and Lindsey, sadly fears becoming one, too. Maybe he struggles to find which one he actually his. Lindsey could also be describing relationships in general—there are those who win, and those who don’t. In that sense, Lindsey sees himself as a loser, for besides Carol, he also lost Stevie. Being a loser, however, may very well be the only possibility for Lindsey. His first love in life, without a doubt, is music. Stevie knew this, and she eventually felt the need to leave.

We can also compare this line to his career in general. Financial success is always in the back of the mind of any rock star, and Lindsey had had his fair share. Whenever he takes a turn towards the creative, ala Tusk and Law and Order, Lindsey’s financial success dwindles, as well as his critical and commercial stance in the music industry. He is conflicted here—when he is a commerical winner, he is a personal loser; when he is a personal winner, he is a commercial loser.

"I’ve lost my power in this world ‘cause I did not use it."

As Carol’s drug habit increased, her addiction began to control her life. Whatever Lindsey could have done to stop this dependency was lost in time; he was too late. He sat back and let it happen. Here, he feels regret.

The "power" could also refer to his influence on Fleetwood Mac, more particularly the Mirage album. In Tusk, he expressed his power to his full ability. When the time came for Mirage, he compliantly let Mick and others make the album a more "commercial" endeavor. Though Lindsey was a co-producer and had full ability to control the situation, he did not. Because of this, he feels like a loser, and he no longer feels he has any power in Fleetwood Mac (this would be wrong, as we see on Tango in the Night).

"Two kinds of trouble in this world—livin’, dyin’ . . ."

Lindsey expresses his distress in the black-and-white principle of life—one lives or one dies. Lindsey, however, feels that, though he is not dead, he has not fully lived. Perhaps the restraints of commercialism disallow him to go his full potential. It is not until Out of the Cradle that we see Lindsey truly live, and that is when Lindsey grows. Here, he is still troubled. In terms of Carol, he sees the opposite—though she is in-between, she strives to go nowhere but toward death. He can’t keep her in-between, and he doesn’t want to take responsibility for her actions.

"I’ve lost my power in this world . .. and the rumours are flyin’ . . ."

The rumours of Lindsey’s lost power could surround his performance on Mirage, which many people, inclduing himself, called lackluster. People also could have been talking about his relationship with Carol Ann. He has lost the power to keep his troubles a secret.

"So I go insane, like I always do."

Lindsey goes insane from the constant drubbing of both his failing relationship and his personal career failures. The inner battle within himself is peaking, and he finds he cannot survive any longer. Perhaps going insane is his only escape. It would not be the first time, since he says he always does so. His want is to release himself of this anguish. His solution—he goes his own way in his musical endeavors (hence his solo album) and, finally, cuts off Carol Ann.

So when did he last Go Insane?" Perhaps it was after Stevie left him, or before. Since Lindsey’s first love of life is music, he knows he cannot juggle both it and a steady relationship. Though he wants the love of another, he knows it does not come without sacrifice, and that sacrifice is his music. But if his music suffers and becomes compliant, he goes insane along those terms. This is, indeed, a vicious circle, and Lindsey strives to form a tangent and break free.

"And I call your name . . . she’s a lot like you.

Here we add another element into Lindsey Buckingham’s insanity, and that is Stevie Nicks’ personal struggles. Much like Carol Ann, Stevie was fighting a cocaine addiction. Lindsey, at least at this point, probably still loved Stevie enough to care for her, though they did not get along at the time. From this line, we see Lindsey remembering his past insanity from his first love and, desperate for any love and wanting it back, calls Stevie’s name. Suddenly, he realizes that, in many ways, that both are the same. Though Carol Ann’s fall was faster than Stevie’s, he notices the similarities.

The end of this song, at least in this part of his life, is questionable. Lindsey’s breaking away from Carol and pursuing his career would only stop his insanity for so long, for his old demons would haunt again with Tango in the Night. The ending of this song, a fade to dark in the original, shows a lack of closure, an inconclusive coda. The story of this song was not done; rather, it was only beginning. Lindsey has temporarily solved his problems, but he knows they still loom, and he knows that, sometime in the future, he may very well go insane again . . .

Transcribed to HTML by Marty Adelson.

Copyright © 1995-2001, Martin and Lisa Adelson
All Rights Reserved.